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on 12 December 2004
Everyone should read this book once; sometimes it hurts to turn the page and watch another character that you have grown quietly fond of reach their inevitable downfall, or make the mistakes that you know are in their nature but that you don't want to see them make. By showing the nastier parts of mans characteristics unashamadly, Selby gives us not just a book, but a warning.
As much as people hate to see it, there is a little bit of one of the characters in all of us, whether the violent and materialistic Tralala or the tormented and love struck Georgette and it hurts to see our own natures portrayed so graphically in any text. But as difficult as this sometimes is, you walk away feeling somewhat cleansed and moved to not make the same mistakes. An unmissable piece of brilliance.
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on 14 January 2003
Last exit to Brooklyn is the only Selby Jnr. book I have read, yet will undoubtedly not be the last. Read in a stuffy hostel in Spain while ill, I was transfixed by a world of degredation, mysogyny, and utter contempt. The characters that Selby Jnr. portrays are visceral and hateful - Tralala is almost like a modern day Lulu, and ultimately deserves what she gets. Vince and his pals are hateful characters not unlike Burgess' Clockwork Orange mob - disrespectful to everyone and everything and getting away with it. It seems that Selby Jnr. is trying to show how the characters all use and abuse each other and ultimately, none are the better for it. This book is seedy, and the characters hateful, yet it had me gripped to the end.I still don't know why I enjoyed it so much and could not put it down - maybe this is Selby Jnr.s way of showing that we can be just as perverse as these fictional characters. Sickeningly enjoyable and made even more contreversial when thinking of the trouble Selby Jnr. had in getting it published. Will definitely be reading more of his work.
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on 18 November 2000
This was Hubert Selby Jr. debut novel and such was the power of the book that in the UK, the original publishers were taken to court to be prosecuted for obscenity. Luckily for us the case was thrown out but the book has a raw power that is both compassionate and horrifying.
Selby writes sketches of various lives living in Brooklyn. All trying to survive on a estate that continually grinds them down. People do nasty things to each other but Selby doesn't condemn his characters but trys to comprehend them.
The stories are bitter and raw, from Tralala who cannot distinguish between sex and love to Harry, a repressed homosexual who lets out his anger on his workers, his wife, his children because he has never come to terms with his sexuality.
Selby writes in a prose style that ignores every rule of school grammer bar one: it has to be understood by the reader.
There are no speech marks, semi-colons and rarely does a comma appear. The effect is stunning, the text hits the mind like bullets as the emotion crosses out of the page. If you thought William Burrough's 'Naked Lunch' was a daring literary experiment, try 'Last Exit to Brooklyn'.
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on 17 February 2001
Brooklyn is depicted as peopled by thugs, prostitutes, transvestites, corrupts union officials and wife beaters. Losers all, and this is where the book falls down. Graphic and well depicted, it is too one sided. Too bleak. The devil is superfluous without a god to provide balance and context. As a brave experiment with reality it works up to a point, but would have been more honest and realistic if there had been some glimmer of decency to provide a yardstick for the opposite.
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on 25 April 2001
Hmmmmm.... this was a very strange book. An absorbing read, and a pretty disturbing take on the hard life of several people in Brooklyn. Very well written, with an almost real sublime poetry in the language, changing the ebb and flow of the tempo for each one of the characters. The only problem I had was that nobody was really likable in the book. You found yourself reading about an almost alien world of degeneracy. I suppose that is what its all about, the human condition, but at the end of the day it was really just a bit too much. And this from a man who enjoyed Junky.
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on 22 June 2006
I had never read any of Selbys books before, the closest I came to any of his work was watching Requiem for a Dream. The book is gripping to start off with, I liked the introduction and how Selby mentioned that this was his first book and the only reason he started writing for fear of dying and not having done anything with his life.

The first chapter was short and violent and opened up the story and exposes you to the street violence in Brooklyn. Selby doesn't give opinions on anything, he just tells the story and leaves you to think what you want to think. The reason I make that point is because there is a lot of strong questions subliminally underlined in the stories. Through this book he is pointing out the defects in society and the incorrigible mess. He writes it in such a way at times it seems like a sad street ballad playing out to the reader (and I'm sure Selby intended this).

The book is very funny in parts as well and at moments I found myself laughing out loud to myself.

The only criticism I would make is on part 5 the chapter about the strike. I felt this chapter really dragged and I felt it was really boring and overally discriptive. I like the overall story but I think it should've been cut down to size. I really struggled through with this part and it's unfortunate that this chapter is actually the longest chapter!

I still recommend the book as a good read but I don't recommend chapter 5 as it was too damn long.
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on 31 January 2003
I don't know, maybe it's me and my own issues, and my macabre mind and my attraction to the 'other' life, and my romantic notion of it all, but there was something charming in this book - other reviews have stipulated how you were unable to take a liking to any of the characters and I worry as I differ in opinion. There was something, without putting my finger on it, that I was almost in love with - the characters, some kind of loneliness and watching them reach out and hide away and, something almost vulnerable about them. How did they get there, it depends on your notion of society - do you think there are inherently evil people? I believe - perhaps naïvely - that there is a good in us all, and so reading about the back ends of Brooklyn life, about the down and outs, I was somewhat smitten. Selby has a great talent in making you the watcher, who needs a movie when he creates one in your own mind, in his vernacular, in his eschewing all grammatical correctness, in rambling on and on and on, but it's okay - because you want him to carry on and on and on. I can understand why Anthony Burgess was such a supporter of this book when it went through such pains to be able to published in the United Kingdom, for there is a lot about Selby's writing - and especially this work - that reminds me a lot of A Clockwork Orange, not only the characters, and their immoral selves, but also the writing and it's daring to take leaps to grounds that are untouched.
The reason that it was stopped from publication is apparently that its gross and obscene, and I have struggled to understand how! It's life, it happens, open your eyes - it's you and me, if we had taken that road. But how superbly he picks up on it, how superb indeed!
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on 10 July 2002
My main problem with this novel is that it is too bleak. I don't deny the truth of the world that the author describes, but feel that the picture painted is too unbalanced and black and white. The author fails to find any good qualities in any of his characters. Although it is obvious that these people are victims of their dire circumstances, they have had every last drop of humanity squeezed out of them.
I am a fan of Hubert Selby Jr and appreciate that this was an incredibly important work, which had a very powerful effect when it was finally published. The book was a wake-up call to a whole society, and for that reason much of its unrelenting bleakness was justified. However, it does not do justice to its characters. It dehumanises them to such an extent that it becomes easy to forget that they have been emotionally crippled by the society they live in and to blame them for the lives they lead.
'Last Exit' is a good book, by an excellent author. However, I can not understand why critics would see it as a failure that the author has failed to produce a second 'Last Exit' in his subsequent career. To make its impact, 'Last Exit' had to be larger than life. 'The Demon', written many years later, is a much more balanced work, and in my opinion a much better novel. In truth 'Last Exit' did its job, but is just too black and white to really reflect reality.
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on 7 December 2009
I will never forget how it felt to read this book.

The language here seems to do things I thought were only possible on film or on mind altering drugs: it creates a world so vivid that as a reader I was trapped by it, in a universe of sharp edges, hopelessly real. I hadn't felt so wrapped up in a novel since I read Huckleberry Finn - which is in my top 5 favourite American Novels of all times. (The similarities stop there though).

There are no likeable characters in Last Exit (I felt both pity and resentment towards them and the combination made me uneasy), so you will need to find a way to appreciate the text outside of the identification process. The narrator will not guide you nor prepare you for the horror of what is to come. Everything is crude, desperate, wretched and violent - as if to hint that reality is being served up unaltered.

I cannot but admire the author's success in crafting this text, with no central character to cling to, no overall plot to follow but just a cold shower of 'reality' - un-apologizing, un-moralising and completely devoid of hope. People seem to interact on a very superficial level - they are unable to understand themselves and unwilling to see others. Each is stuck in the prison of his mind, pointlessly banging his head against its bars with inexhaustible rage.

Zola meets Welsh? Haunting? gut wrenching? These are all terms I don't like using because they have lost their impact, but this book makes me wish they hadn't. This is like the rape scene in Irreversible, the flogging in The Heart is deceitful above all things, like the men killed off by cold and exhaustion in If this is a man. It is like being shoved into Bolgia 5 and knowing that there is NO EXIT.

This novel reminded me of what literature can do.
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on 18 June 2004
An amazingly written book, which is in a style so completely original it makes Selby stand out as an amazing author. The story of desperately lonely transvestite Gearogette left me feeling physically sick, although this does not sound like a good thing it shows just how powerful the stories are and how lifelike they become through Selby's writing. This is the type of book that wil stay with the reader long after they have finished it. Hubert Selby's death earlier this year will leave a great loss so i recomend to everyone to read the stunning novels he left behind.
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